Secretary of State Hillary Clinton heads to the United Nations in New York Tuesday for three days of high-stakes diplomacy aimed at breaking a stalemate at the UN Security Council over a resolution demanding a halt to violence in Syria.
"The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms the escalation of the Syrian regime's violent and brutal attacks on its own people," Clinton said in a statement Monday, announcing her plans to attend the UN Syria debate.
"The Security Council must act and make clear to the Syrian regime that the world community views its actions as a threat to peace and security," Clinton said. " The violence must end, so that a new period of democratic transition can begin."
In the last ten months, over 5,000 people have been killed in Bashar al Assad regime's brutal crackdown against anti-government unrest. Syria's neighbors are increasingly alarmed that the mounting death toll could ignite sectarian violence throughout the region.
UN Security Council action condemning Assad's brutal crackdown has been blocked until now by Russia, which holds veto power in the world body.
Now, however, such a resolution has not just American, European and Turkish backing, but that of the Arab League as well. This past weekend, the Arab League suspended a monitoring mission to Syria.
In a sign of the urgency of the matter, British Foreign Secretary William Hague is also coming for the UN Security Council Syria debate.
Syrian human rights activists said they are placing increasingly desperate hopes on the UN.
"It has become the last chance for the Security Council to Act," Syrian pro-democracy activist Radwan Ziadeh told Yahoo News in a telephone interview from New York Monday.
Ziadeh is one of a group of Syrian opposition activists who had just come from a meeting Monday with Russia's ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin. So far, Ziadeh said, the Russian envoy gave no sign Moscow would budge on its opposition to a resolution condemning Assad. Syria is Russia's closest ally in the Middle East. "But we hope in last minute negotiations Russia agrees to not use its veto, to at least not block a resolution," Ziadeh said.
US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice said Monday that the United States and allies would back a resolution drafted by Morocco on behalf of the Arab League. She said that since the draft does not call for Libya-style military intervention or even new sanctions, the resolution should not raise objections or require extended debate. Still, she did not rule out the idea that Russia would block the measure.
Russia's continued objection to Security Council condemnation of Assad has both political and economic components.
"Basically there are domestic constraints that [Russian Prime Minister Vladimir] Putin is under because has his own election process and … his giving in to pressure abroad and dumping Assad would not look good for him domestically given he has faced protests at home," Andrew Tabler, a Syria analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told Yahoo News Monday. "It seems that our arm-twisting with the Russians hasn't borne fruit yet."
"The question is what kind of resolution is possible," Tabler added. "There are a 100 different ways this could go."
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